A Love Story

love

I’ve never really liked love stories. I tolerate them if they’re ensconced in an otherwise really good murder mystery, but I avoid them on their own. I’ve never been a fan of cheesy Hallmark or Lifetime movies about love. I like romantic comedies, but not as much as other genres. I read and enjoyed Twilight but thought the love story was a little much. I just never felt like the stories were real. They never felt like a genuine love story to me. Growing up, I didn’t have any shining examples of love either. My parents hated each other, my one set of grandparents hated each other too and I just didn’t see any great examples of love stories in my circle. I guess everything in books and movies just felt fake and I knew, even at a young age, that that was not what true love was really like. I knew it wasn’t peaches and cream complexions and sweet sentiments all day long.

But never in my wildest dreams did I imagine that I’d be one of the stars in a great love story of my own.

Real Love Quotes For Her

I will say this until the day I die, but I’m not sure what I did to deserve Matt. I am so thankful for him and our life together. We definitely aren’t a “peaches and cream” love story, but I will tell you we’re real. We fight, we have days where we don’t like each other very much, we get impatient with each other, we get annoyed by each other. But through it all, we love each other. Deeply.

Not very many marriages have to weather as many storms as we have in our almost-20-years together. We were so young when we got married. We had a miscarriage. We had a daughter born with severe and rare special needs. We had a son 13 short months later. We had major health scares with our youngest son. We’ve been laid off. We’ve been without work. We’ve been scraping by. I’ve had depression and, now, cancer. We’ve been through a lot and, thank God, we always come out stronger and more in love, even when that didn’t seem possible.

It’s crazy to me. I don’t know how I ended up in this great love story, but I’m so very glad I did. Matt has been, of course, amazing through all of this cancer business. He holds me when I’m having a breakdown, he brings me things to cheer me up, he rubs my aching bones, he brings me medicine, he helps even more around the house, he does absolutely everything he can and then some. I couldn’t ask for more. Even when you’re sure you married the right person, you’re not sure until you see how everyone holds up under difficult circumstances. We’ve held up better than I could have imagined, thank God.

I am so very thankful that he let me borrow that sweatshirt 20 years ago and asked me to be his wife. Our marriage is the thing I’m most proud of in my life. I couldn’t love him more. It’s hard to put into words, but I hope I’ve paid tribute to the greatest person I’ve ever known. I hope.

love 2

Olivia School Update

We almost have an IEP folks!!! A couple more weeks (hopefully) and we’ll have Olivia’s IEP signed, sealed, delivered. Due to inclement weather canceling some of our meetings, and us wanting to change her whole plan for schooling, this IEP has taken for-ev-er. But it will be worth it when it’s finalized and done.

Things are going so much better for Olivia. Yahoo! It only took until around third quarter for her to settle in…hahaha!! We decided to get Olivia tested and diagnosed with Autism. She will have a dual diagnosis of Cri du Chat and Autism. It’s been a long road to get to this point but we feel it’s necessary and what’s best for Olivia. We are SO over labels! Because of this, and because of the changes we wanted to see in her school day, our IEP team did a slew of tests on her and the results definitely work in our favor.

Based on our input, and the results of all of the testing, the team has decided that Olivia needs to be more independent. She isn’t engaged in her environment and depends on adults for most everything. (I’m majorly paraphrasing here.) The caveat is that, in order to become more independent, she needs additional help. Isn’t that ironic? But it’s true. In order to get her to be less dependent on adults, and more engaged on her own, she needs more adult help. So that’s what we’re working on.

Another major difference is she took a lot longer to transition this year than she has in the past. So we’re asking for extended year services. It looks like we will have some sort of “summer school” options for Olivia that will help her to not regress and transition better.

She’s taking foreign language and absolutely loves it, just like we knew she would. Her Spanish name was Josefina and her French name is Jaqueline. She gets a little overwhelmed by the pace of the class, but she’s participating and enjoying it. She’s even taken a few oral tests and passed with flying colors. Her Spanish teacher was so good with her. Olivia just loved her.

Another of her major goals is her social goal. She has no social life. None. Except, again, for adults and her brothers. We are working on getting her more involved in social aspects of school and helping her make friends. Real friends. Who want to do stuff with her and hang out with her and have fun with her. This is the goal nearest and dearest to my heart. I just want her to have friends. True friends. Who love her for who she is and who want to be with her.

Her “official” Autism diagnosis should be official soon. Her IEP should be finalized soon with plans for the summer as well. She is much happier at school and enjoying her day. She will soon be spending more time in regular classes and, hopefully, making friends. Things are looking up for Olivia!!

Thankful

I know it probably seems counterintuitive that, over the last few weeks, the only word I can think of to describe my life is…thankful. Yes, I have cancer. Yes, I’m in the midst of chemo. Yes, it sucks.

But I am so freaking thankful.

Do you ever think of how you say “I love you” and “I’m glad you’re my friend” and those super important sentiments, but sometimes you forget to tell people how thankful you are for them? So, so thankful.

Thankful for…

A husband who is my rock.

Kids who take care of me and check on me and make me toast.

A mom who spends the day taking care of Olivia and me and rubs my back for as long as I need it. And takes the kids at the drop of a hat.

A mother-in-law who folds laundry every week, helps with the kids when we need it.

Friends who text me every day just to check in.

Friends, so many friends, who do so many wonderful things. They text or call to see if I need anything. They’re going to the store, is there anything they can pick up? They’re at the library, do I need a book? Do kids need rides? Do kids need playdates? They bring food, treats, surprises. They buy t-shirts and wear them to support me. So many wonderful things.

Coworkers who donated money, who bought t-shirts, who painted and decorated my room, who stop by just to check-in and say hello.

Good days where I can go for a walk, have coffee with a friend, take the kids lunch, go shopping. (And then crash.)

Spring break where, for a week, I don’t have to worry about keeping up with lesson plans and substitute plans and grading papers and all that. Even though I love my job, it’s nice to have a week off.

Walks in the woods where you see a mass of deer and they let you stop and watch them for a while.

Having a cancer that will be gone. I’ll be alive and well after all of this is over. Hallelujah!

There are so many things to be truly thankful for…and I’m so glad I can take the time to notice and appreciate them all.

Happy This Week

I made it through my 2nd chemo. Last week Saturday and Sunday were my worst days, so I’m guessing the next two days will be rough. But 2 down, 10 rough ones to go!!

My school sold “jeans passes” for me in the month of February and raised a crazy amount of money for us. It is so overwhelming and humbling to have all of this crazy love and support.

We went out for a nice dinner last Sunday for Gabe’s 13th birthday. He was so excited and thankful and it was nice going out just the five of us.

Gabe turned 13 on Tuesday!!! I can’t believe he’s 13. I have two teenagers!!! We had a small family party on Sunday and he’s having some buddies over for a sleepover over spring break next week. I did get to take him shopping, just him and I, for his birthday. That was a treat!

Gabe stayed home on Tuesday. He texted me at lunch to ask if he could have Sprite with lunch. He is so my son! Isn’t that the cutest?

The boys shaved my head on Sunday. My hair has already started falling out and I wanted to get a jump on it so I didn’t have clumps coming out in the morning before school. I’m so glad I did!! The boys thought it was great and I’m glad it won’t be such a shock when it falls out completely.

I’m rockin’ the hats this week!!!

Olivia had something weird in her braces the other night when we were brushing her teeth. We finally got it out and asked Olivia what it was (we couldn’t tell). She said, “Oh! That’s glue. I ate some in class today.” She keeps us all on our toes!!! (And she says glue like “gaaa-looo” which is so cute.)

We saw a dog on top of a roof the other day (who the hell knows why) and Matthew piped up with “Oh! I wonder if they’re from Mexico!” and we were all baffled as to why on earth he would say that. He told us then that his Grandma had read him a story about dogs on roofs in Mexico!!! We were laughing so hard.

Matt and I had one of those laughing fits in bed the other night where you just can’t catch your breath or stop laughing. I love those. Especially now.

What made you happy this week?

Cancer Chronicles V: Whirlwind

When I think back to the innocuous day in January, (was it only two months ago??) when I innocently went to my yearly check-up with my OB/GYN, and left with a newly found lump in my breast that was almost guaranteed to be nothing, to now, where I sit with a deformed breast still healing from surgery, a surgically implanted port that hurts like hell to help me get through 26 chemo treatments and at least as many blood draws, I almost can’t believe my life. How did this happen? How will I get through this? Why hasn’t the world stopped turning?

Waiting for results was horrible. Waiting for surgery was awful. Recovering from surgery was painful. Waiting for results from surgery was excruciating. Waiting to hear what my treatment plan would be was terrible. Hearing my treatment plan was a punch in the gut. Waiting for my first chemo treatment and port surgery was horrendous. Waiting to see how I would feel after chemo was brutal. Recovering from my chemo treatment was no fun and realizing I have to do it all again in three days and 11 more times this round kind of makes me want to crawl in a hole and stay there until March 2016.

And that’s just me. Matt has been to hell and back and it’s not even close to being over. I can’t imagine what it’s like for him because I would be a mess if he were going through this. We both keep saying we’re so very thankful that it’s not one of the kids. The kids are worried but doing OK. Kids are so resilient, aren’t they? The guilt I feel is overwhelming although I’m getting used to it and getting better about letting it go. I have to. I have to be selfish right now. This may be the hardest part over the next year…being selfish and taking care of me first. Because I have to. I have to rest when I need to, I have to bow out of obligations when I must, I have to do whatever I can to make myself feel better in every way that I can. It’s not easy after a lifetime of always putting others first.

My first chemo treatment went well. I was surprised at how bad my port hurts right now. Thank goodness my friend warned me or else I would have been worried. It gets better each day, thankfully. I slept through most of my first treatment which was nice. I was still a little loopy from my surgery in the morning and then they give you a pre-chemo cocktail that makes you really drowsy. Probably helps with the nerves too. I’ve been so very tired, nauseous, have a terrible taste in my mouth and in some pain. But I’m hanging in there. I’m going to work today and I’m looking forward to it. I’m not sure how I’m going to keep up with everything for work but I’m just going to do my best. That’s all I can do, right?

To say it’s been a whirlwind is an understatement. Our whole lives have been completely turned upside down. But we are making it work, we are managing and we are doing it one day at a time. The best part? We are so overwhelmed, in a good way, with love and support. That has been the best silver lining of all.

Happy This Week

I’m sorry I’ve been so MIA…my mind has just been so crazy and distorted that every time I sit down to write, I can’t seem to form sentences. I have a ton of blog posts in my head…I just can’t get them out. Maybe soon.

My friend Ashley and I are the coaches for our Math Counts team at school. We went to states last weekend and took fourth place! It was really exciting and fun. We were so proud! It was fun hanging out with my friend all day too.

On Sunday, my friends Diana and Jennifer held a pancake breakfast fundraiser for my family. More on this later, but it was amazing. Truly amazing.

Things are going much better for Olivia at school. We had a meeting last week that went very well and her new IEP should be done soon. More on this later too!

Matthew performed in his school’s talent show on Wednesday! I was so surprised that he wanted to do it. He’s pretty shy and I couldn’t believe he was going to get in front of all of those people! He and his two friends, Nash and Jacob, wrote and performed a really funny skit. They were adorable!

Yesterday was my first of 26 (!) chemo treatments…and my first of the 12-weeks of weekly treatments. It went really well. My port is in and it is pretty painful right now. I guess this will last a week or so. It was a ridiculously long almost-12-hour day but it’s over! I didn’t have any allergic reactions which was great. I’m anxiously awaiting to see how bad it gets (if at all) this weekend. So far I’m a little nauseous and really, really tired.

My coworkers had a big surprise for me when I came to work on Wednesday. Somehow, without me finding out at all, they all got t-shirts that said “No one fights alone” on the front and “Team Townsend” on the back. It was so wonderful. They are all so supportive and give me lots of love and I’m so thankful to work there.

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I’ve also been so humbled and overwhelmed to see so many posts of my friends and family wearing the “I can. I will. End of story.” shirts my friend Bethany designed. We’ve sold almost 700!!! If you’re interested, you can still order one at Teespring.
They are really cute!

If you want to follow me on Instagram, my handle is @elastamom417. I’d love to “see” you on there!!!

What made you happy this week?

Happy This Week

I got to go back to work yesterday!!!! It felt sooooo good. My students and colleagues were so excited to see me and that felt so good. I wish I could tell them without getting emotional how much they all mean to me!!!

My friend, Bethany, and I were on the news for the t-shirt campaign she is running in my and my friend, Melinda’s, honor. EEEEEK!!

Girl Scout cookies are in!!!

I finished watching House of Cards and it was amazing!! Frank is sooooo scary!!

Matthew is having a really hard time dealing with the face that I’m going to lose my hair. To make the transition easier, I got my hair cut really short. I love it!!! At first I was kind of overwhelmed by how short it was, but after five minutes I loved it. Fingers crossed it helps my little guy at least a little! (One of these days I’ll take the time to figure out how to get Instagram pics on here so I can show you…feel free to follow me @elastamom417.)

Pain pills are my best friend right now…I’m so thankful for them!

Dinners from friends during this time have made life so much easier.

We had our first cleaning by Cleaning for a Reason. It was so nice to have a super clean house. Shout out to Dutch Maids of Perrysburg for volunteering their time!

We’ve been playing Phase 10 after dinner each night. I just love playing games with the kids.

Olivia’s been messing with her hair constantly. Like if I braid it, she takes it completely out. By the time she gets home from school, she looks like a homeless person. So, I had it chopped! It looks so cute on her and it should help make her look less crazy!! (Again…on Instagram!)

After my appointment on Monday, Matt and I treated ourselves to Starbucks and had their new Sulawesi Pango Pango coffee and it was amazing.

Olivia’s been sick all week (not happy!) but my Mom and MIL were able to pitch in so I could go back to work.

What made you happy this week?

Cancer Chronicles IV: My Treatment Plan

I had my appointment at U of M yesterday to get my treatment plan now that my surgery is done.

Wow. Overwhelming is not strong enough of a word, truly. I was telling my Mom that it’s really difficult to find the positive in this whole situation…but I’m really trying.

First, I am healing well. I’m quite bruised, according to my doctor, but everything looks good. I’m still in quite a bit of pain especially under my arm. According to my doctor, she “did a lot of rooting around in there”. Gross. The pain constant and annoying but not horrible and it’s getting better each day. I’m going back to work on Thursday!!! I asked when I can start lifting weights again and everyone looked at me like I have two heads. I’ve been walking (slowly) and riding the recumbent bike but that’s it. Well…it looks like that will be it for the next 3-4 months. Yikes. I can’t do much with that arm for the next 3-4 months except stretch it. I was very disappointed in that news! If you know me, you know I love to workout and I’ve been lifting weights since I was a senior in high school. But the good news is I can walk and ride the recumbent and stretch!!! And by summer I should be able to workout normally again.

However…I start 12 weeks of weekly chemo on the 19th. So I might not feel like working out like crazy anyway. That’s the first part of my plan. I will have a port put in which will stay for the next year. They will also start my year-long treatment on the 19th. This is not technically chemo but it is an infusion every three weeks for a year. The side effects are much less than regular chemo. I’ll definitely lose my hair. But as far as chemo goes, the first one I’m getting is the lesser of the evils as far as side effects go. Hair loss, flu-like symptoms and fatigue are the main ones. Fingers crossed it’s not so bad.

Starting at the end of June/beginning of July I’ll begin my radiation treatments every day for six weeks. This will be able to be done locally so I don’t have to make 45 minute trips daily. The nice part about this is I’m a teacher so I’ll be off and able to zip over easily for treatments each day. The side effects from this is not supposed to be bad at all. Burning at the site and fatigue. I can handle that. I’ve been tired for 15 years!!

After my year is up, in March of 2016, I’ll start my 5 years of hormone-blocking pills. Those have some side effects too, of course. Hopefully it won’t be too bad.

I also have tons of blood work, check-ups and heart monitoring coming up. Apparently both of the chemos I’m having can be hard on the heart so they’ll monitor me closely. Thank goodness I’m a regular exerciser and I eat healthy, right? My heart is in tip-top shape to start!!!

I’m completely overwhelmed, as is Matt, and if I think about it all at once I can’t breathe. So I’m taking one thing at a time. First up: chemo education, ECCO baseline, port placement and my first back-to-back chemo treatment which will be about 3-4 hours in the chair alone. That’s all I’m thinking about right now.

Oh and finding cute hats and comfy chemo clothes. ;)

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Happy This Week

I don’t know what I’m going to do when I don’t get a card or present in the mail every day!!! I’m so spoiled by my friends…thank you!!!

Dinners for our family started this week. It has been so very helpful especially since I’ve been feeling like crap and can’t really use my left side. Matt is trying to keep up with everything I normally do, so it’s nice for him not to worry about dinner.

I was able to go to my girls’ basketball game with a friend on Monday. I was exhausted by the time I got home but it was worth it! It was so good to see some of my students and they were so happy to see me.

I love getting “I miss you” emails from my students. If they only knew how much I missed them too!!!

I have been watching Gilmore Girls this week and I’m obsessed! How on earth did I miss that show the first time around??? It’s just wonderful.

House of Cards is back, baby!!! Bring on the Underwoods!!!

Matt and I are attempting a date night tonight!!

I read some really great books this week that I can’t wait to share with you!!

What made you happy this week?

Cancer Chronicles III: Finally Some Good News!

I have been waiting to post about my surgery until I got my results. Well they’re finally in and it’s all good news!

My lymph nodes were negative for cancer! They removed four nodes and all of them, including the sentinel node, was free. WOO HOO!

My tumor was as small as they thought (about 2 cm) and the margins were clean all around the tumor. Another WOO HOO!!!

I am so happy to get some good news amongst this bad diagnosis. HOORAY!!!

Surgery was rough. I’m feeling better every day. I thought I would be back to work sooner than I will be able to. Yesterday I thought I was feeling so great so I went to my girls’ basketball game with a friend. I was there for about an hour and a half and was exhausted and hurting by the time I got home. So much for going back to my 9 hour teaching work days soon! I’m hoping for Tuesday. I did manage to get a shirt on over my head today and that is BIG NEWS! My hair and everything else is another story, however. Matthew asked me if I was going to stay in pjs forever so I decided to at least start getting dressed even though pjs are way easier. ;) I’m anxious to get back to the gym and being able to use my left side and be able to make it through the day without needing rest!!! (I’m impatient…I know.)

I meet with my oncologist on Monday to discuss the next phase which will be chemo. I thought radiation was next but it sounds like chemo is first and radiation after that. I’ll know more after Monday. I wish my appointment was tomorrow! I swear, all of this waiting is hard on a family! Speaking of, all of you prayer warriors and well-wishers out there, please say a prayer for my husband. He’s, of course, having a really hard time with all of this. He could use the extra good stuff if you don’t mind.

I’m so relieved to have some good news. It’s still a long road ahead but the prognosis is so very good!!! Hallelujah!!!

Again and again and again, thank you so much for all of your prayers, good wishes, cards, texts, emails, presents and love. We are so humbled by everything. Thank you.